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Help Shape The Virginia Outdoor Plan

The Virginia Outdoors Plan is the state’s official document regarding land conservation, outdoor recreation and open space planning. It helps all levels of the public and private sectors meet needs pertaining to those issues. The plan provides guidance for the protection of lands through actions of the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), and the plan is required in order for Virginia to take part in the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program. Virginia Outdoors Plan

In other words...it's the document that helps shape the future of outdoor recreation in Virginia! It helps determine where the money gets spent.

Planners with the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation will hold two public meetings March 8 in Roanoke to gather regional input for the 2013 Virginia Outdoors Plan.

Meetings will be at 3 and 7 p.m., at the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission, 313 Luck Avenue SW, Roanoke, VA 24016.  Residents are invited to share their ideas for outdoor recreation and land conservation needs.

Here are a few topics relevant to the Roanoke Region:

  • Expansion of trails such as the Roanoke River Greenway, the James River Heritage Trail and the Great Eastern Trail
  • Increased water and trail access throughout the Roanoke River and James River Basins
  • Increased access on Johns Creek, Jackson River and Lake Moomaw
  • Further development of locals parks along greenways and blueways
  • Potential for state Scenic River designation for sections of the Roanoke and James Rivers and Johns and Craig Creeks
  • Expansion of partnerships and collaborative efforts to connect the region’s natural, historic and recreational resources

The Roanoke meetings are part of a series of public input sessions scheduled statewide. Anyone who cannot attend a meeting may submit written comments. Email comments to Janit Llewellyn at janit.llewellyn@dcr.virginia.gov or write to: VOP Comments, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, 203 Governor St., Suite 326, Richmond, VA 23219.

Here are some talking points to ponder:

Recreation Is Conservation
Preserving our last great places is critical to environmental protection and ensuring a high quality of life.  But an approach that locks these spaces away from most citizens is counterproductive.  Successful conservation benefits when visitors bond with the land.  No better way to do this than with responsible sustainable recreation, like high-quality trails.

Interagency Planning Cooperation/Coordination
Local, State, and Federal agencies must work together to create connected complementary trail networks.  It is not unusual for larger contiguous expanses of open space to have multiple owners.  But to the casual visitor, it is all just “the park”.  To reach full potential, everyone must work together.

Trails Within The Community
Bringing trails into the community must become less the exception and more the rule.  As traffic and congestion in parts of the region quickly become the worst in the nation, requiring the use of a motor vehicle to access recreation is detrimental to quality of life.

Trails Spanning The State
Virginia is blessed with long-range trail resources like the Appalachian Trail.  These should provide inspiration to create additional locally long and/or through trails and to enhance existing trails by providing connectivity. The VA Mountain Bike Trail has already been gaining some traction; help make it a reality by mentioning it in your meeting!

Progression Within Trail Networks
While it is not practical to accommodate the needs of every user along a given segment, it is important to provide a variety or “progression” of styles, difficulties, and experiences within each larger collection of trails.  This variety should be applied within as well as across modalities.  To meet the varied goals of users, this may require selective creation of targeted trail segments.  Trails featuring progression will allow users to develop their backcountry skills; techniques moving across the landscape, improved way finding.  And also allow new discoveries on subsequent visits.  Lowest common-denominator or trails lacking progression quickly become stale and discourage repeated use.

Shared, Preferred, and Single-Use
In the populated areas shared-use trails are the best approach to meet the escape & recreation demands on the limited open space.  Preferred-use trails, still shared but targeted toward the desired experience of a particular group, address a specific need while still welcoming the larger population of visitors.  Single-use trails acknowledge that some needs are best accommodated by dedicated areas or trails.  These needs may be driven by experience goals or unique modality qualities.  Examples include solitude trails and equestrian jump facilities.  For bicyclists, this may be a skills park or a directional “flow” trail.

Trail Is Not A Four-Letter Word
Many right-of-ways designated as trails in Virginia are actually decommissioned roads, extraction routes, or game/social paths.  Never intended for continuous long-term service, more often than not they have degraded to a poor condition that harm the resource and provides an inferior user experience.  It should be a goal to restore these corridors and replace them with well-designed single & doubletrack paths that better meet user expectations and integrate with the landscape.

Further, some landowners actively shun trails entirely.  Sustainable single & doubletrack trails provide opportunities to provide responsible escape & recreation where space is at a premium.  They provide education and interpretation to encourage protection and preservation of our last great places.

We hope to see you there...

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